Let’s say you need a vehicle that can do everything, and you need it on a budget. That’s exactly why the subcompact crossover segment is so hot right now, with affordable vehicles offering more versatility than a traditional car. Here are the best small crossovers available right now, and what makes them special.
Hyundai has been crushing it lately, and the Kona is a perfect example of that. The Kona offers standout styling (in a good way), with bold color choices, a two-tone roof, and a fun and almost futuristic exterior styling design featuring wild headlights. The interior is quiet, comfortable, and refined, but still delivers a fun design theme. It’s a nice place to be, with solid build quality, comfy seats, and impressive fit and finish. A punchy 2.0-liter four cylinder makes the driving experience fun, as does the surprisingly nimble handling. The ride is sporty and confident around corners, but not harsh over uneven pavement. There’s an impressive list of standard and optional features, including a neat heads-up display, making this one value-packed ride.
For over a decade, the box-on-wheels that is the Kia Soul earned buyers and won several prestigious awards for its combination of great use of space, nice tech, and standard features, all for a great price. Inside, there’s impressive headroom for taller drivers, with a perfect seating position and excellent exterior visibility. The four cylinder engine and six-speed auto transmission make for an easy drive around town, and enough power for on-ramps and passing, but if you like shifting your own gears, look for the six-speed manual. The cargo hatch can hold humongous objects with the rear seats down if you happened to find some garage sale treasures. Gas mileage is great at 26 city, 31 highway MPG, and financial site NerdWallet discovered it’s one of the cheapest vehicles to insure. Savings all around is one of the many reasons the Soul enjoys high owner loyalty.
If you really want an MX-5 Miata or 370Z, but the baby in the car seat says no two-seaters, you should be looking at the CX-3. This is the playful sports car of the compact SUV segment, but also delivers the real world practicality you need. The 146 horsepower four cylinder is has a little more punch than the competition, and thanks to a light curb weight, it’s also great on gas at 32 MPG highway. The steering feedback is outstanding, and the CX-3 stays planted when having fun on winding roads. The cargo area is a bit smaller than competitors due to the cool exterior styling, but should suffice for hauling t-ball gear and weekend camping trips. The cabin feels more expensive than the price suggests, with piano black and chrome accents, and a large and responsive infotainment screen. Mazda made sure you’ll enjoy every time you drive the CX-3.
Have you driven anywhere today? Then you’ve seen at least one Rogue on the road. This compact Nissan is wildly popular for its traditional SUV-like appearance, roomy interior, and huge list of standard features. This is an excellent choice for a road-tripper, with comfortable seats, great outward visibility in all directions, a quiet highway ride, and it’s an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Gas mileage offers savings too, with 33 MPG highway, equivalent to the much smaller Fiat 500. A hybrid option increases the power a bit, but jumps gas mileage to 33 city, 35 highway. There’s even Star Wars editions out there, if you’re that much of a fan. Bonus points if you play Darth Vader’s theme music while rolling up to school to get your kids.
Buick’s best-seller is Lexus-quiet, and offers a great cabin. Taking the looks and technology features of the larger Enclave SUV, Buick left it in the dryer too long to make the subcompact Encore. This cute-ute drives like a traditional luxury car, with an easygoing steering feel and calm and composed suspension over any surface. Buick advertises their quiet tuning, and you can hear the difference here with almost no road noise at highway speeds. The 2.0-liter engine is similarly quiet, and while you won’t be winning any drag races here, the Encore returns solid gas mileage. This is one of the best-in-class interiors, with high quality materials, solid build quality, and a contemporary look on par with the Kona, but a less “out there” design. All-wheel-drive and a solid list of standard safety features, including active safety systems, mean the Encore just might be your next small family hauler.